Ben Rainey contacted me shortly after the passage of hurricane Irma and its decimation of Barbuda. He wanted to do something; a feeling all of us can relate to at this time – especially factoring how many of our neighbouring islands and countries have been hit between Irma and Maria (and the conflicting feelings of urgency and helplessness this can induce). As a related sidebar: remember this post linking ways you can help Barbuda and others affected this hurricane season (another sidebar: let us as Antiguans extend continued compassion to the people of Barbuda, empathy, and our ears and support re their future and the history and future of their land). Okay, sidebars over; back to Ben and the initiative he has taken to help our sibling island. After some back and forth with Ben, I decided to share it here because of its arts-driven nature (given that Wadadli Pen is and remains a community-focused arts project, here to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda…and on this occasion an opportunity for the literary arts to step up and help Antigua and Barbuda). Read on.
From Ben Rainey:
‘A humanitarian crisis’ – so PM Gaston Browne has said is developing in Antigua, with the entire population of Barbuda forced to seek refuge on the larger island. The prime minister’s rhetoric has become increasingly fiery over the weeks since the hurricane (hurricane Irma), as he travels from the UN (United Nations) to music festivals in the USA, seeking to raise both funds and awareness. Climate change is real, and needs to remain at the very top of the agenda.
The authoring of crises to serve the wealthy is already endemic in the Caribbean. Structural adjustment programmes, such as those offered by the IMF and World Bank, are often predicated on debt crises themselves originally manufactured by the same organizations – hence PM Browne’s heartfelt plea to the UN. Barbuda, however, represents a real challenge to the consensus of debt-as-freedom – an island which is one of the longest running modern projects in genuine mutual aid and common ownership in the world, and not to mention a pioneer in climate change research, given the Blue Halo initiative and all it represents. To allow these achievements and insights to be overwritten for the sake of quick dollar would be a grave mistake and a travesty.
If there is anything we can do from London to effect and help the people of Barbuda with preserving what they have, with not losing it to prospectors and investors, then we owe it to them. To that end we are starting a journal, ‘Reef’, aiming to feature poets, writers and thinkers from both the Caribbean and London – of the diaspora and beyond. Barbuda needs the solidarity of all who refuse to consent to erasing the future, and who believe in the power of poetry, art and words to effect change. If you would like to submit any poetry, writing or thoughts, please send them to:
As this is a grassroots effort we are aiming to keep overheads minimal, and will be printing on Risograph; so a few guidelines:
● 300 words max for poetry/500 for prose
● Feel free to submit multiples, but we may only be able to accept one piece per writer
● First rights are unimportant, we welcome poems previously published
● We cannot offer payment, but will provide all contributors with a subscription to the journal as it develops
Deadline October 5th. UPDATE: No deadline, keep sending.
We’ll also be having a promotional night in Clapton, north-east London on the 6th of October, to present the project and more importantly show our support for the preservation of Barbudan life for the Barbudan people. Poems submitted to the journal will be read out on the night.
Pending investigation, all profits from both of these efforts will be sent directly to the Waitt Institute’s Barbuda fund – you can find details, as well as a full transparency statement, at: https://donate.icfdn.org/npo/barbuda-recovery-conservation-trust-fund
Please join us – to speak, sing, dance and most of all shout our support for those who have lost their homes and who we will not allow to also lose their way of life.
About Ben Rainey: Originally from Antigua, Ben Rainey is a student in Linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, UK, with an interest in creole studies and pragmatics – specifically, metaphor and reality and where they meet – and where he also works on Grambank, an international project documenting grammar in languages from around the world. When not studying he co-runs the art night and radio show ‘voice of god’ , looking at ways to talk about the invisible in art, as well as producing music as äkeä and playing in punk band Business Lunch.